Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

A far cry from the Black Fridays of old

Ploughing at the Burren Winterage Festival in Co Clare
Ploughing at the Burren Winterage Festival in Co Clare
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Perhaps this comes from leading a sheltered life but up to very recently, I had no idea what Black Friday was or what it meant.

Having deleted endless emails from various businesses offering me special deals on their products, I just couldn't avoid references to the term.

Up to now, I assumed it had some sort of religious significance. I even thought it was perhaps linked in some way with two of my late grand aunts who used to eat only black toast during Lent. After enduring that, I would imagine by Easter they had no need to go to Slimming World or partake of Operation Transformation.

They must have been as lean as greyhounds. They even drank black tea (without sugar of course) and I must admit, albeit from my dim childhood memory, they weren't exactly a bundle of laughs. No surprises there.

What was, to my young eyes, even worse was the fact that they were very well off and could easily have had champagne instead. What a waste. Oddly, in those days austerity was quite fashionable.

Widows along with priests and nuns wore black and the uplifting sight of a bit of colour was apparently, in some way almost sinful.

This Black Friday is however quite the opposite and is a shameless exercise in encouraging the nation to spend as if there is no tomorrow.

No prizes for guessing it originated in America where advertising and the hard sell are infamously aggressive. Why we have to imitate everything the Yanks do is beyond me but clearly they have the edge when it comes to getting us to part with our money.

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I checked out the statistics and found that last year, in the US, over fifty billion dollars were spent during the Black Friday weekend. The event begins on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday which is set for the fourth Thursday in November and seems to be a bit like our January sales in that stores offer special bargains to tempt the pre-Christmas shoppers. Even my insurance brokers have got in on the act, offering me "super" discounts on car and home insurance. Sorry guys, but this time you picked the wrong man. In true and time honored farming tradition I will buy what I need, only when I need it.

With all this talk of money, it's hard not to be reminded of those poor people in the IFA who must be wondering where it all went wrong.

The answer is quite simple. They should have told us.

The sin lay in the non-disclosure of facts and not, contrary to popular opinion, in the amount that they paid their general secretary.

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys and it seems that Pat Smith, unlike some of our semi-state executives, was and is one very smart guy who was probably worth every penny he received.

Apparently the IFA had a pension liability of €9m when Pat took the helm but he has since put the IFA on a much sounder footing. Does that not tell us that he was doing a good job?

We need a strong organisation to represent us and up to now, I would have thought that we had one.

I recall the late Joe Murray speaking of his time with RTE and telling me of the legendary negotiating tactics of the IFA delegations and the fear they instilled in successive governments.

Tough times

Apparently some of their leaders used the Al Capone approach "We will make you an offer you can't refuse" and God help you if you don't accept it.

Tough men for tough times and now that times are as hard as ever in the farming world, the IFA is in trouble.

As I said earlier, they should have told us.

Too many trade unions and others keep a veil of secrecy over what they pay their executives.

This is wrong and unfair to their members but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that top men demand and deserve top wages. We do not want to be represented by second raters.

I am sure that Mr Smith will have many offers of employment from large businesses and corporations once this affair has died down.

The salaries of our best leading businessmen are, to most of us, something almost undreamt of but these people have special talents and work their butts off.

To now stop paying levies and membership fees would be pointless and self-defeating - but we should have been told.

Indo Farming